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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

400                                                MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE

u guilty but insane ", as it was definitely proved in evidence that the accused
was a somnambulist, that she committed this act in a state of somnambulism,
and therefore did not know what she was doing, that she did not appreciate
the nature and quality of the act, and that she did not know she was doing
it at all because of this somnambulistic state from which she unquestionably
suffered.

Semisomnolence or Somnolentia.—This is half way between sleep and
waking and is very often called sleep drunkenness. This condition is mostly
allied to a mental condition occurring in some cases immediately after an
epileptic fit. If a person is suddenly aroused from deep sleep, he may
unconsciously commit some horrible and illegal deed owing to his mind
being in a state of confusion, especially if he is having a dream or a night-
mare at the time. He is not criminally responsible for such a deed.

A woman in Hungary attacked her daughter in the middle of the night with an
aice, inflicting serious injuries. At her trial she pleaded nightmare as a defence. She
alleged that she had heard gossip that her daughter had been seen walking at night in
remote places with a young man, and had been filled with suspicion. On the night of the
assault she dreamt of her daughter's disgrace and saw her arrested for an offence against
public morals. Under the influence of the dream she gave way to an overpowering impulse
to kill her. She had been brought to her senses only by the girl's screams. The Medical
Advisory Board of Criminal Jurisdiction to which the court referred the matter, advised
that the woman had told the truth and was not responsible for the assault. She was
accordingly acquitted.48

Hypnotism or Mesmerism.—This is a sleep-like condition brought on by
artificial means or by suggestion and is allied to somnambulism. During a
hypnotic trance, though unconscious of surrounding objects, a person may
perform acts suggested by the hypnotizer, but does not remember them
afterwards. Sometimes, the suggestive influence may last beyond the period
of the hypnotic trance. Difference of opinion exists as to whether a hypno- ,
tized person can be made to commit a criminal act but the best authority
would seem to indicate that while persons under hypnotic control can be
influenced to commit acts in line with defects in character or weakness of
morals which they might otherwise not commit, the fundamental principle
holds true that no one can be compelled by hypnotic influence to commit
any deed of which he was not capable in the normal state. A person cannot
be hypnotized against his will, hence if he volunteers to be hypnotized, he is
expected to have anticipated all the consequences of the act and agreed to
become responsible for them and the well-settled principle of law that a
person cannot take an advantage of his own misconduct would govern in
case he violated the law hi the state of hypnotism.40

Hypnotism as a defence to a criminal act is not generally recognized in
courts. In a case where Gouffe was murdered by hanging, Bompard, one
of the murderers, unsuccessfully pleaded that she had been hypnotized by
Eyraud, the other murderer, and while under his influence was induced to,
take part in the murder.

/ Delirium.—According to Tuke50 delirium is " a perversion of the mental
^processes, the perversion being manifested in speech or action. The dis-
turbance is characterized by incoherent speech, hallucinations, illusions and
delusions, restlessness, watchfulness, apparently purposeless actions, inability
to fix the attention". Owing to hallucinations and delusions being present
in a state of delirium the patient may commit violent fatal acts. Such a
person is not legally responsible for acts committed during an access of
delirium, if, in the words of section 84, I.P.C., he lost consciousness to such

48.    Times, Jan. 2, 1937, p. 9 j F. H.* C., Med.-Leg. and Criminolog. Rev., Vol. V, Part 3,
Jan. 1937, p. 94.

49.  ~ Medico-Legal Jour., Vol. XL!, Jan. 2, March-April 1924, No. 2, p. 48.

50.   Diet, of Psych. Medicine.